By Anthony A. Kila
Lest we become guilty of what we accuse others of doing, it is important that we, today and for posterity, say it loud and clear that based on the cost and benefit analysis of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Lagos, last Thursday and Friday, we must inform the President and all those who hosted him, starting from the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, that this Buhari that came is not welcomed in Lagos anymore.
This Buhari that came to town is a man for whom the whole state, at least, government offices were shut down through an announcement that explained two days to his arrival that the state was on a work-free day that would “enable Lagosians to come out en masse to welcome President Muhammadu Buhari”.
Among those that were granted a work-free holiday to enable him greet the President is a 36-year-old legal practitioner who has been preparing for a case in court for the past two months. Besides his passion for law and his joy for finally doing a case, Mr Lawyer was also hoping to come home with some money so that this Easter would not be totally dry as his client had agreed to give him some money in court.
With the visit of Mr President and the added “enabling work-free day”, the courts were closed on Thursday; the client did not show up, hence Easter came without the expected joy for Mr Lawyer and family.
The case of the woman selling food to staff of many companies including government offices in Ikeja is not so different from many entrepreneurs and businesses in general. They invest and plan ahead in view of profits with the risk that goes with such process. One thing they didn’t factor in is the visit of this Buhari. Madam Caterer had planned her supplies ahead with the view of selling till Thursday. But with that presidential visit, Madam was left with items bought and no one to sell to. Staff would be back on Tuesday but by then everything would have perished. Let’s not go near the issue of power supply today.
It will not be fair of us if we do not remember flights that were disrupted, and the cost to airlines and passengers who had to walk to the airport. I observed that many of them didn’t even remember to wear appropriate shoes for long walk.
This is not to talk about the pupils in the state-owned schools who had exams planned for that day long ago at the beginning of the second term, in order to close for the Easter Break, only to be forced to sit for subjects they barely prepared for a day to the D-Day.
All these are cases from microeconomics; if we aggregate the whole thing and move to macroeconomics and think that one of the largest economies in Africa was shut down to accommodate the visit of one man coming to open a bus stop, I mean bus station, then, we see how far we have come as a people. Someone sent a message asking me to estimate the macroeconomic cost of the visit. I refused because the truth presented in numbers can be very hurtfully when one is losing. Let us pray: May we not find ourselves in situations where numbers hurt us.
Our Lagos prides itself as the Centre of Excellence; I have always said such an appellation is more aspirational than factual but I have also proudly replied realists, cynics and spoilers that whilst we may not be perfect in Lagos, we are certainly cosmopolitan, vibrant and productive and more creative than most cities in Africa.
A centre of excellence does not relegate or suspend the lives and interests of its residents and businesses for the benefit of any one man. No matter how powerful, mighty, successful or inspirational such a man is. The visitor should never be bigger than what makes Lagos big. Whilst we are at it, let us remind ourselves that the rationale for which modern states grant religious holidays is not to honour God but to allow citizens to go and honour their God. Holidays are for the people.
“O ye deity, if you cannot improve my lot, please, leave me as you met me…” is a saying many of us living in and around Lagos State will be used to hearing and saying.
This Buhari that came to Lagos on Thursday, came in a way that does not improve our lot. His coming took governance to a low level at which we regret to see Lagos. That visit did not bring joy and comfort to most Lagosians. Someone tweeted that the crowed that were happy to see Buhari were paid to show happiness. We wish them happiness with productivity and in dignity.
Although we don’t write “Welcome to Lagos” at our borders, we are certainly happy to see people bring joy to and even find joy in our Lagos. Our Lagos is a place where with hard work and a bit of luck, dreams can become true and achievers can excel. Anyone who is going to come in a way to cause us discomfort should stay wherever they are. We don’t welcome such people regardless of who they may be.
The next time the President wants to visit Lagos or anyway in Nigeria, we hope there will be someone in his team considerate and deliberate enough to find out if such a visit will cause discomfort to residents and citizens of such a state.
Prof. Kila, a Jean Monnet professor of Strategy and Development, is currently Director at Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies, Lagos, Nigeria.